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Wesley Rose and the Everlys a Parker example?

Sun Jul 03, 2005 12:06 am

This is for all those people who scream and yell why didn't Elvis just fire Colonel Parker. I've been on an Everlys bender of late which always gets me to re-examining their careers and the moves they made.

In late 1960, the Everly Brothers did what people have said Elvis should have done with Colonel Parker when they fired their manager Wesley Rose. The dispute came over a version of Bing Crosby's "Temptation". Rose wanted the brothers to release only songs where he owned the publishing as singles. This is a familiar dispute to us Elvis fans. The Everlys believed so much in temptation and were so furious at Rose releasing another song instead of "Temptation" as a single they fired Rose.

In an interesting turn of events the firing did not lead to any great measure of artistic freedom. Instead it led to an artistic and commercial decline. Except for Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who worked for his publishing company, Rose isolated the Brothers from developing a relationship with any songwriters. When the Everlys and Rose split, Rose took the Bryants with him and refused to license their songs for Everlys hits. This was very similar to what Parker did with Elvis and songwriters. Worse for the Everlys, Rose had the boys signed as songwriters to a contract with his publishing company which meant that despite his firing, the Everlys would have to pay him even for songs they wrote.

Being established stars they were able to keep up the show for a little while stumbling upon an occasional gem like "Crying in the Rain". However, even the Brothers would admit that by 1962 their standards had tumbled and their last Top Ten "That's Old Fashioned (That's the Way Love Should Be)" (penned our old buddies Giant, Baum and Kaye) was a dog. Even the Brothers would admit that and today they almost never perform the song despite its success.

Most histories peg the Brothers decline to Beatlemania. However, the Brothers did not have a song in the Top 40 from the summer of 1962 until December 1964. Clearly, the decline started before Beatlemania. Interestingly, by the time "Gone Gone Gone" a fine Everlys homespun composition hit the bottom of the Top 40 the Brothers had made up with Rose. However, the momentum was gone and the Everlys could no longer even make the bottom of the pop charts. This was a position where Elvis never once found himself. Never, did any Presley product ever meet with complete public difference. Even "Having Fun on Stage" spent around two months on the bottom of the charts.

The Nashville community being small, Elvis must have known about what happened to the Everlys. True, unlike Elvis, the Everlys were going nowhere until they met Rose who badgered Archie Bleyer to sign them to Cadence Records and Elvis had a much larger hardcore base of fans. However, Elvis' doubts had to be increased by Parker's reputation. Few people outside the industry knew what Rose did for the Everlys. However, Parker was actually a household name and since people didn't want to actually admit that a rock and roll performer actually had talent, they gave Parker credit for Elvis' success.

This is what he was up against. I'm not saying that things would have turned out for Elvis the same as they did for the Everlys. The converse may very well be true. However, a decision in the mid-60s to fire Colonel Parker would have taken an incredible amount of courage and vision. I am also defending the numerous bad management decisions made by Parker.

The important thing to remember about Elvis and to a certain extent Colonel Parker is that they had no map. There was no formula for maintaining a lengthy and successful rock and roll career. And the maps that Elvis did have didn't bode well for certain types of activities like firing Parker. Here are two of Elvis' most talented contemporaries who made a stand for quality in their music and were rewarded in that stand by a descent into obscurity. So getting on Elvis for not firing Parker is kind of 20/20 hindsight. More than anything Elvis wanted to preserve his career and the only road signs that he had preached caution.

Sun Jul 03, 2005 7:22 am

LTB, interesting comparisons in management styles and what could've been. I know the post is a little off topic, but no one's responding, so what the hell, here it goes.

I always felt that Phil and Don's problems were each other's egos ... I remember when the Knots Berry Farm blow up was like yesterday ... the perfomance was a joke, management halted the show, Phil stormed off the stage, and Don announced the split, which lasted for a decade.

Timing is everthing, and theirs was off. 1973 was the year of American Grafitti, a wave of ''50s nostalgia was born, and the boys went into solo tailspins. Re their commercial/artistic decline after 1962, I actually enjoy 1968's Bowling Green.

Bringing off topic full circle, there is definitely a musical difference between the Everly's and Elvis. I really don't like their harmonies much after the comeback of 1983. Their voices seem week. With Elvis, most fans agree that the voice was always present, health permitting. When Elvis staged his '68 comeback, he showed the world that he was still a player in the modern music scene ... he shut up the critics with the American sessions. Phil and Don's reunion was just that ... they rehashed the old chestnuts, and faded away without any new pop hits (Wings of a Nightangale wasn't a pop hit)'

Knowing how much Elvis loved good harmony, I'm sure that he appreciated their wonderful harmonies. It seems that Chet Atkins did a lot more for the Everly's than he ever did for Elvis ... Atkins was a big part of the Bye Bye Love sound.
I know your view is that poor management started their decline. I've always thought that the boys grew out of their Appalachian roots, had families, and wanted to try solo careers, grow as individuals and adapt to a hipper sound. When they reunited in 1983, they had missed out on a solid 10 years of a nostalgia craze ... rotten timing to reunite as new wave was hitting its stride.
I'm no historian, just adding my .02 cents to an interesting post.

Sun Jul 03, 2005 8:13 am

Very interesting. Knowing this lets take this scenerio.

What if Elvis didn't fire the colonel, but rather made it clear to him just exactly what he wanted from him. By that, I mean the colonel should have only OK'd deals that Elvis first pre-approved. Elvis sometimes forgot he was the boss and the colonel worked for him. The colonel if seems made all these deals and Elvis found out about it after the fact.

He should have said to him,
I want to be able to record good material, even if I don't get the publishing.
I want to be able to get script approval.
I want to be able to reject songs in movies I don't like.
I want to be in total control over my career and I need you to help me do this.

If Elvis demanded this of the colonel, you would think the colonel could have done this.